Wolves 1-0 Aston Villa: Mason's first-half effort lifts Paul Lambert to victory over former club

Paul Lambert's Wolves inflicted a first Molineux defeat on his former club Aston Villa for 39 years on Saturday evening and lifted themselves eight points clear of the Championship relegation zone in the process.

Joe Mason gave Wolves a deserved lead on 15 minutes with the only goal of the game, his effort bouncing into the ground and over the arm of Sam Johnstone after the goalkeeper could only push Nouha Dicko's cross into the middle of his box.

Wolves were undoubtedly the better side at both ends of the pitch but were fortunate that Ross McCormack wasted a gilt-edged chance to draw Villa level in the first-half from Jordan Amavi's cross.

While neither team could carve out many goalscoring opportunities in a hard-fought second-half, Dicko drilling straight at Johnstone in the best chance after the break, Wolves held on for just their fourth home win in 13 league games and a first clean sheet at Molineux since August 16.

It was also the first time Villa - who were devoid of any real quality going forward in the absence of several key attackers - have lost away at their midlands rivals since May 1978.

Both sides make changes from cup clashes

Lambert, facing his former club for the first time since leaving in February 2015, made seven changes from Wolves' upset of Stoke City in the third round of the FA Cup seven days ago.

Striker Ivan Cavaleiro returned to the line-up, with centre-back Mike Williamson - having made his first senior appearance in over a year in the Potteries - dropped for Richard Stearman.

Otherwise captain Danny Batth, Dave Edwards, Jack Price, Nouha Dicko and Conor Coady all came in - the latter starting at right-back with Dominic Iorfa only considered fit enough for the bench after an unknown injury.

With Jonathan Kodjia and Jordan Ayew both at the Africa Cup of NationsSteve Bruce made just the one change as Jack Grealish made way for striker Ross McCormack, who partnered Gabby Agbonlahor up front in a 4-4-2 formation.

On-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone made his league debut, having featured in the FA Cup defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

Wolves the better side across entertaining first-half

Both sides paid an impeccably-observed tribute to the late Graham Taylor before kick-off, the former England boss having been manager of both these clubs - and the entertaining first-half that to follow was also a fitting tribute.

Due to an injury in the warm-up, Villa were forced to draft in Tommy Elphick in place of Nathan Baker and the defender was called upon to make a crucial intervention of 12 minutes. 

Matt Doherty drove down the left-hand side and cut inside the box, threatening to get a shot away on goal only for Elphick to dispossess him in perfect time.

But the hosts - having played the better football in the game's opening exchanges - had the lead just three minutes later.

Goalkeeper Johnstone could only parry Dicko's cross out to Mason in the middle of the box and though Johnstone recovered, Mason drove his shot into the ground and over the 'keeper's arm for his fourth of the campaign and his first since returning from a two-month injury-enforced absence.

Having deservedly taken the lead, Wolves continued to look the more threatening team going forward - though they only fashioned a few real opportunities.

Cavaleiro spurned a promising chance to feed Dicko through on goal on the break after latching on to a misplaced Villa pass, but he hesitated and allowed Alan Hutton to recover.

Villa had largely struggled to trouble the home side's back-line in the first half-an-hour but should have been level on 28 minutes.

Amavi's stunning solo run down the left took him past three Wolves players and he picked out McCormack with a pin-point cross, only for the Scotland international to head over the crossbar from just a matter of yards. 

Villa enjoyed an improved spell after that but failed to test Carl Ikeme, winger Albert Adomah's cross drifting over everyone inside the box in the best attempt they could muster, and Wolves almost doubled their lead on 41 minutes.

Mason's first touch from a Helder Costa cross allowed him to get the better of James Chester at the near post and after beating Johnstone, it looked as though the Irishman would poke home his second of the evening from a tight angle, but Chester did well to scramble clear off the line.

Chances at a premium in evenly-contested second-half

Inside a minute of the restart, the 4,200-strong travelling support and Steve Bruce were calling for a penalty when Mile Jedinak's effort from the edge of the box struck Edwards at close-range, but referee Tony Harrington rightly ignored their claims.

And only moments later, 30-year-old Edwards was forced to dash down the tunnel to undergo treatment on a head injury, temporarily leaving Wolves down to 10 men.

He returned on 50 minutes and was at the centre of penalty shouts himself - albeit half-hearted ones - as he went down under pressure with his back to goal, although Harrington was once again unmoved.

In an evenly-contested second-half and one of few chances, Wolves had more substantial cries for a spot-kick when Cavaleiro's through ball struck high up the arm of Jedinak - though they were once again denied.

Lambert's side should have doubled their advantage before the hour mark, when Costa embarked on a speedy run down the right and slipped Dicko into space, but the striker's shot on the turn was comfortably saved by Johnstone at his near post.

Bruce summoned Jack Grealish from the bench in an attempt to adress Villa's lack of goal threat, before handing 18-year-old forward Andre Green another appearance from the bench.

But neither substitution could inspire the Villans as their lack of creativity and the absence of Kodjia and Ayew proved costly, leaving them 10 points adrift of the play-off places.

Wolves - having conceded at least twice in their last five home games before this shut-out - could have added a pivotal second late on but substitute Bright Enobakhare fired wide.

The Wanderers have now won three of their last five Championship fixtures after managing only three wins in their previous 17 before that.

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